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Lava Hot Springs helps lift people and spirits

Lava Hot Springs unveiled a new piece of equipment in the indoor pool on Friday, and the new lift they’ve installed is also working with people’s spirits.

“I was really frustrated, I guess,” said Stephanie Bearnson, a stay-at-home mom of two. “I used to be able to do it, and now I can’t.”

Bearnson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 20. She loved to swim in elementary and middle school, but as time passed after her diagnosis, her mobility was reduced.

When her mobility was reduced to the point where a wheelchair was required, she suddenly experienced losing more than just her mobility — she lost several of the activities many take for granted, like swimming.

Now she has a chance to be in the water she loves so much.

“I’ll be able to come and do water aerobics or something,” Bearnson said. “You know, just get out.”

Bearnson was just one of several people to take the plunge into Lava’s well-known warm water.

“It’s really helpful to people with limited mobility” explained Karen Homstad, Lava Hot Springs’ aquatic program manager. “They don’t stay as warm, so the warm water helps them be able to have movement and be comfortable. It’s also kind of giving you a resistance workout.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act was revised in 2010. The new requirements say public pools, like those at Lava Hot Springs, need to be equipped with means to enter and exit safely.

“With our staff that’s here today, it gives them a chance to interact with folks with disabilities,” said Homstad, “and just make sure they can be included in the swimming activities that we offer.”

A key to using the new lift is communication between the person needing assistance and the person providing it. Hamstead listed some general questions to ask.

“Can I help you, how can I help you, is this comfortable?” she said.
Homstad also said there is a lot more to going swimming with a person with limited mobility than meets the eye.

“There’s so many things that you don’t realize,” she said, “because you’re not in a wheelchair, or in a walker. It’s no problem, you can just cannonball into the pool.”

Now those with limited mobility can enjoy the water with their family and friends.
Bearnson said while life can be difficult, doing nothing is not the best way to go.

“Keep chugging. I mean, you have to,” she said. “You have two kids to raise, and a husband. You just deal with it. Do what you can. That’s all you can do.”

The Olympic-sized outdoor pool has a ramp that is accessible with a water-proof wheelchair.

They are set to open that pool on May 18.

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